Cancelled Planescape RPG Interview

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Eschalon: Book II

Developer:inXile Entertainment
Release Date:2017-02-28
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • Third-Person
Buy this Game: Amazon ebay
GB: Why was TORN altered from your original design direction?

Colin: I'm not sure why Black Isle went the different direction with TORN. I left the company soon thereafter, so I wasn't privy to the design decisions that resulted in the changes.

GB: Returning to the PlayStation game, you mentioned that you played a lot of King's Field as research. Isn't it somewhat barebones as far as RPGs are concerned, particularly in comparison to what you wrote in your vision document? What specifically did you find compelling about King's Field that you were looking to bring forward into your game?

Colin: King's Field was definitely bare bones for an RPG, and I should add that that direction was handed down to me with the project: "You WILL make a Planescape game, and it WILL be like King's Field." One of the aspects that I was hoping to improve was the number and types of enemies, the depth of dialogue and story, and a greater reliance on non-combat to solve puzzles. Given the hardware limitations of the PSX, I don't know that this would necessarily have been successful. That said, the puzzles, the exploration, and the real-time melee combat all seemed ideally suited to a computer D&D port, and I was very much looking forward to getting the Planescape architecture and feel implemented into an immersive visual medium.

GB: The King's Field series was also the spiritual predecessor of Demon's Souls (and now Dark Souls). It certainly looked very unforgiving and you talked a great deal about challenge. Were you looking to go that "hardcore" (for lack of a better word)? If so, what were your thoughts on preserving that level of difficulty verus the implementation of alternate solutions to problems?

Colin: The general direction, as I recall, was that this game *would* be a hardcore game. However, because another one of the tenets of Planescape is that there is always something bigger and meaner than you out there, I wanted to ensure that we could find alternate paths through the game to avoid combat. One of the great joys of the Planescape setting is that mere mortals can speak with immortal devils and angels and present them with philosophical arguments rather than physical ones, and I'd have loved to see that option presented. We could have developed a number of puzzles based on that conceit. Sadly, we never got that far.

GB: Did the target of the PlayStation have any effect on what content you were thinking about for the game? This would have been part of Interplay's attempt to break into the console market, and the lack of a breakout console title is part of what eventually doomed the company. Was there any pressure to appeal to the "mass market" or go for a particular ESRB rating unlike Torment?

Colin: I wasn't given any direction to appeal to a certain market. I think the general directive of "make this game like King's Field" was probably indicator enough. In general, though, I was given tremendous freedom to develop the game.

GB: Before we let you get back to Tides of Numenera, can you briefly sum up the main path or plot of the game?

Colin: This was about 16 years ago, so I hope you'll forgive my hazy memory on the exact details: The core of the game's story was that you took the part of a young Mercykiller recruit. It's your first day on the job and there's a riot in the Hive, the slum of Sigil. You go into the tenements with your squad, but are quickly separated from them by the press of flesh and the flames, and you need to find your way out. Clues lead you into the Lower Ward, where you discover a criminal enterprise run by (apparently) a shadowy thieving organization. Your superiors send in investigators to wrap up most of the conspirators, and they send you to Ribcage in order to pursue certain loose ends. While there, you discover that this is a much bigger conspiracy than you thought, with tendrils extending into the politics of Baator itself. You plunge into Hell to exact justice, even though it means your near-certain death.

We'd have had the politics of Sigil tied into this, which is to say lots of other factions getting involved, and some celestial hierarchy as well. I was looking forward to doing it, but I learned so much from Torment that I have to say it was really for the best.

GB: Thanks for your time, Colin!